Feb. 21, 2012
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — It has been nearly two months since the University of Iowa men’s basketball team went into the Kohl Center and downed Wisconsin, 72-65. But not a lot with the Badgers is different.
“I don’t think there’s going to be a lot of glaring changes,” said UI head coach Fran McCaffery of Wisconsin during his Tuesday press conference in the media room inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. “To me it sticks out that (Ryan) Evans has really raised his game, the level of his game.
“The rest of the guys are still doing what they’ve been doing. That’s why they’re always where they are. They’re phenomenally consistent in everything they do.”
No. 15/16 Wisconsin enters Thursday’s game with a 20-7 overall and a 9-5 Big Ten record, which puts them in fourth place in the Big Ten Conference standings. Iowa is 14-13 overall and 6-8 in league play and is currently tied with Northwestern for seventh place.
Senior guard Jordan Taylor leads the Badger charge, averaging a team-best 14.3 points per game, while also leading the team in assists (4.2) and steals (1.1). He is shooting 39 percent from 3-point distance, making 43-of-129 attempts.
“He has consistently been a really good player at the end of the game, and at the end of the shot clock,” said McCaffery on Taylor. “You look at their wins; he’s making buckets late, free throws, baskets. He did it to us last year in an overtime loss. He’s a focal point of what we’re preparing for.”
The Hawkeyes are riding a high after downing No. 18/20 Indiana, 78-66, on Sunday in Iowa City. The win was Iowa’s third over a ranked opponent this season. McCaffery is searching for the same effort and consistency from his squad.
“The thing that we have to figure out is, OK, if we’re capable of playing like this, why can’t we do it a little bit more often?” he said. “You see a lot of teams in this league right now that are right around .500. A couple have moved to the top.
“It sort of was expected with Ohio State and Michigan State, in particular. Wisconsin has moved up there along with Michigan. But we beat Michigan, we beat Wisconsin. We’re capable of doing that.”
McCaffery isn’t surprised by the numbers freshman Aaron White is putting up in Big Ten Conference play, even if they aren’t the norm for a player in their first season.
The Ohio native averaged 9.2 points and 4.8 rebounds in nonconference play. Those numbers have improved to 11.5 points and 6.4 rebounds in conference play, and he has averaged a double-double (14.5 points and 10.3 rebounds) over the last four contests.
“With him I’m not surprised because of his basketball instincts and IQ,” said McCaffery. “He takes the information and experience and uses it to his advantage. He has the incredible ability not to rattle or get nervous or be affected by the trappings of the game.”
Sophomore Melsahn Basabe was all over the court in the win over the Hoosiers, finishing with 13 points, seven rebounds and five blocks. He made 4-of-5 shots from the floor. McCaffery applauded the energy level of his forward.
“With him it’s an energy level,” said McCaffery. “It’s amazing, when he gets five blocks, the energy that he plays with, the energy that we play with. All of a sudden his buckets are going in, his free throws are going in, his defense is better.
“On Sunday his focus defensively was the best it has been since he got here. It just goes to show you what he’s capable of doing.”
Thursday’s game is set to begin at 8:05 p.m., and it will be televised on ESPN2 with Dave O’Brien and Dan Dakich calling the action. The game is “Matt Gatens Bobblehead Night” with the first 2,000 fans receiving the Hawkeye memento.